Tatted Totes 4 Tatted Tits

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This Project Has Wrapped Up
See The results of this effort at
https://mjslostcause.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/one-bag/

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(I blushed just titling this blog, but it is perfectly descriptive and kinda fun to say.)

Did you know that many breast cancer patients have tattoos? I have 6.

Mine are from radiation therapy. They are tiny blue dots on my chest and sides that served as markers by which the technicians lined up the radiation field to hit precisely the same tissue for 7 weeks. Others receive reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy and have a nipple rebuilt and then add tattoo color to complete the aesthetics.

Valentine’s Day is the anniversary of my lumpectomy; the surgery that led to my breast cancer diagnosis. It has been 9 years now.

Here is my journal entry from February 19, 2005:

“It’s nearly 6 a.m. and I’ve been tossing and turning all night. So has Luke (our 2 1/2 year-old). I know because we are all sleeping in the same room. Each boy on a couch and James and I on our mattress on the floor. Our house is damaged from a burst pipe and needs $17,000 in repairs. We are hoping insurance will cover it. I had a miscarriage last Wednesday, 10 days ago, and this past Monday had a lumpectomy.

Yesterday Dr. Anderson sat with James and I in a small exam room and told me that I have breast cancer. I am 24 years old with breast cancer. When she told me I listened as she explained that in the immediate future I am looking at a mastectomy or surgery and radiation. They only have a small piece of me for information so this next Friday I will be going in for surgery to remove the tissue immediately around where the original lump was and to test to see if my lymph system has received any spreading cancer. I have so few answers and so many questions, and a whole week to speculate. My sample has been biopsied and is en rout to Washington D.C. to have further testing. On Tuesday I have an appointment with Dr. Anderson to rehash what she told us yesterday, because most of it went over our heads, and to give us the results from Washington D.C.

I have given a travel-log so far. How do I feel? . . .

I spoke with my siblings, parents, grandma and In-laws yesterday and had to tell each of them that I had cancer. Each time I knew what message I was calling them to share, but felt as though I was lying each time. I haven’t really internalized it myself. But I know it’s true. I have the care package designed for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, so . . . I must have breast cancer. My body feels strong . . . but I think this might be more extensive than a local lump. When I was having this lump looked at through ultrasound the radiologist thought it looked like a cluster of cysts, clumped together and saw other grey “cysts” all over the rest of my breast. I wonder if those aren’t cancer. This might be a big fight. And I might lose some body parts . . . but I will survive it.

I have thanked Heavenly Father many times for the miscarriage last week. All of the miscarriages make sense now. Especially, I am grateful, for not having to think about making a choice between my baby and myself. Heavenly Father has spared me from it. Usually this kind of cancer is not felt, but only seen on mammograms. Heavenly Father has shown me the cancer, taken my baby away so I could treat the cancer and made extreme things happen so that I can be on top of it and beat it. My breasts haven’t shrunk since the miscarriage. I wonder if it’s because they are full of cancer. I wonder. ❤ Martha Jane”

Reading this entry again puts my heart into a very sober, raw place. It makes me want to wrap my arms around that poor, scared, clueless newbie and tell her how the next 9 years will be. I wrote that journal entry on the first page of a diary provided in the care package mentioned above. The care package also included a pen, a candle, some chocolates and some literature on breast cancer. It was packaged in no ordinary bag, but a hand-made, crafted with love, fabric tote bag. The care package represented two very profound things to me upon receiving it with my diagnosis. First, it was a physical proof that I had indeed met with the doctor and received the nightmarish news. Second, it was a tangible testament that I was loved, watched after and encircled with support from a community that was ready to help me before I even knew about the cancer inside.

My desire to wrap my arms around my younger/innocent self can only be truly expressed through perpetuating the expression of love. I want to provide the same steadying gift of love and support to the next generation of breast cancer survivors. There are women out there who, today, don’t know they have cancer growing inside them. In the coming months they will undergo a lumpectomy and hear a similar message from their doctor, “We biopsied the lump in your breast and the pathologist found cancer cells in the tissue sample . . .” This message may come to your neighbor, your sister or your aunt. It may be your husband’s grandmother, or your niece who hears these words. Two weeks ago I spoke to the breast cancer patient coordinator at my local hospital who told me that they have a few things to give to the newly diagnosed: a diary, a pen, some chocolates. She would like to add some all natural lotions, (with no chemicals, etc.) to the bag. But, a lot of the care package depends on donations. When I asked, she said that the care packages are presented in a nice paper bag with handles.

I invite you to join me in a good cause. I’d love to fill those care packages with all kinds of wonderful uplifting gifts, but for now we’ll just focus on one, very meaningful gift.

I want you to help me make and distribute at least 100 hand-made tote bags (If I find myself buried in 500+ I will find a home for every one of them). I want those who will receive them to know that they are not alone and that there is a network of survivors and supporters and cheerleaders encouraging them in this fight before they ever leave the doctor’s office.IMG_1629

Here’s how it will work:

1. Make a couple one-of-a-kind totes

Here is a link to get the basic instructions for making a lined/reversable tote-bag. It is sturdy and simple. Beginner seamstresses can totally do this one.

I chose this pattern because it is similar to the one I received and I thought mine was pretty fabulous. I also like it because of the durability and the classiness of the finished edges inside and out.

Use fabric patterns that you would enjoy in a moment of crisis. Perhaps you would enjoy something bright and fun. Others might appreciate colors that are lovely and calming, etc.  With the expanse of contributors, I imagine we’ll have quite a perfect variety when all are gathered and ready to be delivered.

Add an embellishment or two. I actually don’t know how to tat, but if you want to incorporate it into the design of your masterpiece I’d be extra impressed.

Perhaps, as you sew it, keep a prayer in your heart for the woman who will clutch it as she leaves the exam room to face an unsteady future.

2. Mail them to me by Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014

**********I have moved from the address given originally************

3. Send me an e-mail for questions or comments and to let me know the package is on its way

mjslostcause@yahoo.com

4. Check back here after Mother’s Day and I’ll show you what we accomplished together

This would be a great project to complete with your children or church group, with a family member grieving the death of a breast cancer warrior or with a current fighter.

Finally, a thousand thanks to the sweet woman who crafted my tote. In the cold of the Anchorage, Alaska winter, in an exam room of the Elmendorf Air Force Base Hospital, your gift was delivered. I received it in my most vulnerable moments of crisis and it remains a treasure to me. Whoever you are, I appreciate your gift of comfort and forethought on my behalf. If you see this, please know that your gift will now be multiplied a hundred fold.

Lets get started, folks.

Follow this project on Facebook Here

If you would like a couple of friendly reminders about your goal to join this cause, just drop me an e-mail (mjslostcause@yahoo.com) and I’ll send you a little encouragement to keep this project on track.

Love ya’ll,

MJ

**UPDATE**

Watch my online Hang-Out interview below:

**Another Update**
You can follow this project on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mjslostcause

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46 thoughts on “Tatted Totes 4 Tatted Tits

  1. MJ! This is amazing! I am so excited about this! I am friends with your SIL, Amanda and that is how I found out about this! I would love to help do this and promote it! A few of us gals here in little eastern Idaho started a lifestyle blog and would be willing to post about this and make bags! Let me know what you think!!

    -Mindy

    1. Mindy, I am thrilled about your enthusiasm and energy toward this project. The best part about it is that no one is making a buck on it. It is just pure service and love. I look forward to the creativity and unity that will explode through this. I’m so glad you’re on board. I would also love for everyone to take picts of their projects and email them to mjslostcause@yahoo.com

      PS I was raised in Boise and met my hubby at Ricks 😉

  2. Would you mind if I started a similar project here in Utah? My mom works for a radiology oncologist and I think these bags would be something wonderful to donate to her office so she could give them to their patients. If you’d rather I can make one and send it to you. I honestly don’t want to step on toes or steak your thunder. Please email me so we can talk more about it. —————–@gmail.com

    1. Whitney, I saw you response to this blog post and I also live in Utah and am a cancer survivor. If you do start a project here, please let me know and I’d love to participate with you also. Nola

  3. I would so love to do this but would love a reminder in the upcoming weeks,…..I love making totes….this sounds so fun…and for such a wonderful cause!!!

  4. I would love to help pro ote this, and may even help with bags. I am a small business owner, and wonder if you have everything needed to fill the bags? If not how will you gomabout that? Do you need ites to fill? I ask because my business is chemical fre body, hair and home products. Lip balm, skin creams, lotions, rubs, oils and more. I would be willing to help out.

    1. I’m thankful for your interest and willingness to share. This project was launched only 3 days ago so I have no idea what the return will be on totes or gifts to fill the bags. I would gladly receive and distribute your wares, though. That would be a huge blessing in any amount. Please include business cards to accompany your gifts. I’m so thrilled with the positive energy flowing through this project. Thanks for joining it.

  5. MJ, I honestly have no idea how I even found this blogpost. But I am sitting here with tears in my eyes. I just found out a few days ago, that one of my best friends from high school, a 37 year old mom of 3 was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have thought so much about her recently and have tried to think of ways that I can help her family. I wonder if she received a bag of goodies from her doctor. Anyways, I love to sew and my fabric stash is bursting at the seams! You can count me in. I don’t know how many bags I’ll make, but I will make some. Thank you for what you are doing!

    1. I’m so glad you stumbled upon this blog post. I hope the best for your friend. I know that sometimes it’s hard to know how to help, to know what would be truly helpful. Keep looking for opportunities to show love and support. Childcare, rides to Dr. apointments, a variety of head scarves from a friend, yard work, parties to celebrate treatment milestones, snail-mail letters and cards, etc. There are lots of ways to help, depending on the relationship, and treatments underway. Keep your eyes and heart open. You’ll find a way.

  6. MJ, you are wonderful and remarkable and beautiful in every way!!! I’m so happy to know you and your family. I will be sooooo happy to make some for you. Aloha OK? 🙂 I’m not very domesticated, but I will give it a shot. 🙂 Thank you for your love you freely give. You are an inspiration. Love you girly, Lenore

    1. Rose,
      Of the many needs that come from the diagnosis of cancer, I’m afraid this current project is only able to address one of the first. My heart goes out to your mother and your whole family. I will e-mail you.

  7. MJ, this is amazing. I’m the daughter of a breast cancer angel and would be more than thrilled to help with this project. Expect a package from me soon.

    THANK YOU for putting this together and for being an amazing gift to the newly shocked and terrified breast cancer patients in your town.

    1. Wonderful! I’m just so pleased with the goodness and kindness of those who are rallying around this project. In honor of your Mom, your gift will make a true difference.

    2. Thanks Genevieve,
      I feel humbled by the support and filled with renewed purpose in being a voice for good in the breast cancer world. I look forward to receiving and distributing the gifts of love that will pass through my care. May you feel the love that surrounds this project on behalf and in memory of women like you’re angel Mom.
      Yours,
      MJ

  8. This is a great cause. Just a note it is not only women who get breast cancer. It would be nice to have some totes to give to men. With some stuff in it that men would like. As my husband has been fighting breast cancer for the last few years. My husband loved to eat sour patch kids when he was having his chemo treatments. thanks for doing this and supporting those in this fight.

    1. That is a great idea. Men are the recipients of 1% of the annual Breast Cancer diagnosis. If I received 4 totes for men, we could supply one each for a few hospitals. Long term shelf-life treats and gifts would be best. Any volunteers? Comment below!

  9. Hi! I found you via SewLikeMyMom.com. And I can’t wait to send you some totes. Thank you for giving me a wonderful and loving project to focus my energy on. I believe I may do as Whitney is doing and contact some local offices to find out if they do anything like this to help their patients. Thank you so much.. God bless your caring heart.

    1. Ashley,
      Every tote will make a difference. I am so happy to hear of desires to expand this project on the local level. I feel so much community, love and support in this effort. Good things are coming from it and I’m excited to see what we all accomplish together.

  10. The first one is done — what fun! I found you through WestMichQuilter.blogspot.com. the group I usually quilt for needs boys’ quilts, so it will be nice to use some of my “girly” stash for a good cause.

  11. I’ve made two…one in honor of a dear friend and the other in honor of my mother in law. Both are breast cancer survivors.

  12. Hi MJ! I have been away from blog for far too long. I just read about this on Kelly’s blog! I am going to do my best to get some sent out to you!

  13. Hi MJ! Wow! What a wonderful response you received from caring women around the world. It is absolutely true, ONE person can make a difference and you have certainly made a difference in the lives of us who were privileged to sew a few cancer bags and for those who will receive them. I know you will be blessed because of your efforts to help others. Thank you so much for the opportunity to participate. Also, I was wondering if you could send my email address to Whitney or share hers with me as I would like to see if she could use help with bags here in Utah. You are an amazing and caring lady. Thank you, Nola

    1. Thank you for your giving-heart and interest. This service opportunity is formally closed, but I encourage you to find needs in your local area and fill them as you are inspired to do so. God speed. -MJ

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